Top picks: A video by Croatian cellists, Michelle Obama's new book, and more

Singer Melody Gardot embraces multiculturalism, noir writer Philip Kerr pens another winner with 'Prague Fatale,' and more top picks.

Charles Dharapak/AP
A copy of first lady Michelle Obama's new book about the White House Kitchen Garden is seen on a table on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, June 5.
Courtesy of Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera/PBS
Courtesy of MBC PR

Raising the rafters

Tune up your passion for opera. "Great Performances at the Met" features Verdi's "Ernani," based on the Victor Hugo play. It features three men – two nobles, one a bandit, who try to outmaneuver one another to win the love of the beautiful Elvira. It stars soprano Angela Meade and is conducted by Marco Armiliato in a Pier Luigi Samaratani production. It airs Sunday, June 17, on PBS at 12 p.m.

Cellist rock stars

Croatian cellists Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, also known as 2Cellos, have released another YouTube video. This time it's a unique rendition of Trent Reznor's "Hurt" ( 2Cellos became a viral hit last year after their video of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" caught the attention of Sony Masterworks and pop legend Elton John invited them to join him on tour.

Jazz Whisperer

No one would ever guess where singer Melody Gardot is from by listening to her wondrous new album "The Absence." The sultry, breathy voice should be a clue. Is that bossa nova we hear? She must be Portuguese! No? What about that accent and musette vibe? Not French? Ooh, island rhythms! Bahamian? Give up? OK, she's from New Jersey, but you get the point. "The Absence" is a delectable buffet of world music styles, sung whisper-soft and played with gentle rhythms and impeccable taste. Treat yourself.

Gunther goes to Prague

Few know noir like Philip Kerr, whose Hitler-era Berlin detective Bernie Gunther suffers the Nazis with open disdain and horror in Prague Fatale (Putnam, 401 pp.). Bernie's latest outing takes him to Prague at the behest of the brutal German intelligence chief Reinhard Heydrich. Fearing assassination, the chief turns to Bernie to ferret out the plotters amid a gathering of generals and other party operatives at a nearby castle. Is there a questionable damsel in distress? Why, yes. And snappy dialogue, to boot.

How they talked back then

Would a real lord of "Downton Abbey" ever say "novelty value," "board games," or even "later today"? says, "very unlikely." This language-tracking blog uses software to discover anachronisms sprinkled throughout current period dramas, such as "Mad Men," by comparing scripts with published writings from the same era. Written in a clear, casual style, Prochronism is a fascinating study in language evolution over time.

sprouts from the white house

Many first ladies have adopted a cause; Michelle Obama has become an activist for eating well and exercising. In American Grown (Crown, 271 pp.), Ms. Obama shares history, gardening tips, and recipes from her groundbreaking White House Kitchen Garden and takes readers on a tour of urban community gardens across the country. It's also available as a Random House e-book.

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